Here is a great post from my high school math tutor, Elissa Joy Watts. She has always been an inspiration to me (and I think most people who know her would say the same), and I’m honored to have inspired her post. If you want to read “Reach for the sky. It’s worth it”, click the image below.
This is Taganga, it’s raw and always hot. The people are poor, and there’s no water, but it is an honest town, in the way towns like these are. The truth is a mixture, a combination, of the vice and the virtue expressed by those that live there. There is nothing to hide because it is all exposed.
Early in the morning, when the fisherman push their boats out to sea, their feet drip sparkling drops of water when they jump on board. The wind blows clean and fresh from the ocean and it is the only time the town is quiet.
Later, once the sun is high and burning the gravel streets bake, and the wind shifts and begins to blow the other way. It funnels down the canyons from the dry brush hills, which surround the half-moon bay, and it blows strongest when the sun is setting. Howling at times, the wind is never cold warm and always enjoyable. When the weather is like this, life slows down and becomes more tranquil. The true beauty of existence can be touched and is brought to your sweating skin with each breath of breeze.
I dedicate this story to Monica, and La Tortuga Hostel.
As I am writing this post, I am close enough to ride a bicycle to Angkor Wat Temple, in Siem Reap Colombia.
But this story began last year when I flew to Bogota Colombia to finish writing Five Weeks in the Amazon. After a month I decided Medellin was going to be my next destination. I wasn’t sure where I was going to stay, but I had been in contact with David Lee, a professional travel blogger who happened to live in Medellin. Not only that, but he wrote the Medellin Travel Guide.
Originally I contacted him to pitch a guest post idea for his website gobackpacking.com, and after a few emails, I asked him where I could find a cheap place to live for a month. He said his roommate was moving out in 4 days and he had a room available in 4 days. I think it was about $200 for a furnished private room, and it just happened to be directly next to the best skate park in town.
I left Medellin and flew to the Caribbean Coast to a town called Taganga. There was only one problem, when I checked into my hostel and opened my backpack, my computer had been stolen. I called Dave to see if I’d left it in his apartment, but it wasn’t there. It didn’t stop me from writing, it delayed the editing process, but it gave me the chance to write some fun short stories by hand. One of my favorites is, With love, the bar staff…
Dave was one of the first people that I sent a review copy of my book, He posted a personal review of my book on gobackpacking.com, and although he didn’t like the original idea I pitched to him about the time I was in South Africa and swam with Great White Sharks.
The reason I came from Thailand to Cambodia was to meet Mr. Ross, the facilitator, organizer and operator of an amazing school (and home), for orphans. I have been fortunate that everyone I’ve met in my first week in the country has been more than helpful. I am glad I met the Hoola-Hoop girl, but the only problem with my first hostel was that within four days my skin was destroyed from bed-bug bites, and I was beginning to get little infections, most likely from the grimy washrooms and showers.
On my third night in Siem ReapI was so exhausted from “play acting” as an English teacher, and so hungry, I lost my direction when I went to a dinner the Hoola-Hoop girl had made at her house for me. Tired and hungry the loud music, bright lights and clean decor drew me into what looked like a fancy hotel about to be opened.
Within the hour I had checked out of my first hostel, and was lying in a brand new bed, with my bags stacked against the far wall(on account of the bed-bugs).
Because the property of the new hostel is under construction, I have met all the staff, and even eaten meals next to the owner. We had a few conversations, and on my second night here I asked why the music got shut off so early. He told me the community leader had told him the music needed to be shut off. Don’t forget, the sound system is what pulled me in off the street.
So today, which is a Sunday, and the only day of the week children don’t attend school, we came up with the idea to invite the kids from the local neighborhood to come swim in the pool before the hostel is open business. My logic was, if all the kids head home tonight and tell their parents how much fun they had, then maybe we can crank our music like I did when I was in Colombia! Oh yeah, that newspaper article I mentioned in my last post…It ended being in the weekend edition and my parents sent me a photo as soon as they saw it!
When I was a child I would hear The Vancouver Sun hit the cement in front of my house every morning before I got up for school. Next, my mom would knock on my bedroom door and tell me it was time to wake up and take a shower. When I was a teenager I was always tired in the morning.
I would walk like a zombie downstairs, turn on the shower and then crouch down in the fetal position and fall back to sleep leaning against the warm tiles. I don’t remember how many times I did this, but more than a few times I would be woken up by my parents knocking on the door telling me I was taking too long.
I would get out, dry myself off, stare at myself in dismay in the mirror (by 13 I already felt awkward about my looks and inability to retain my “first girlfriend”). After putting on clothes for school I would go to the kitchen and pour myself a huge bowl of cereal.
My dad would sometimes have already left for work, but the morning edition of The Vancouver Sun would be sitting on the kitchen table every morning. What started as an interest in the comics soon developed into a curiosity for current events and world happenings.
I am feel honored that they reviewed my book, Five Weeks in the Amazon, in their Entertainment section. I am not sure if my parents have seen it yet (it was just published online, and I am in Cambodia 15 hours ahead of them in Vancouver), but I know they get it delivered to their home each day and I’m wondering if they will come across it while eating breakfast.
Happy Saturday mom and dad. Thank you for subscribing to a worthwhile, and educational daily paper, and thank you Corry Anderson-Fennel for writing the book review for The Vancouver Sun. If you are interested in signing up for my next big update from Cambodia click here.
I got an email from thebookdesigner.com that the E-Book cover for Five Weeks in the Amazon won the Gold-Star Award for the month of December in their monthly E-Book cover contest. Of course, all credit goes to Rory Doyle who was able to take my constant desire to be hands on and deliver an amazing product.
Here is what the talented Joel Friedlander had to say about the Gold Star Award given to my cover. Joel not only judges who gets awarded these coveted prizes, he is an amazing resource to aspiring indie authors & self-publishers like myself.
JF: A strong cover that cleverly makes the assertive type part of the illustration, drawing us into the image too. And that simmering pot is evocative, it just makes you want to know more. ★
I spent a lot of time listening to CBC Radio when I was young. Most of my summer break I would live on a small island named Bowyer, just outside of Vancouver. My grandmother and me loved listening to The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart Mclean.
When I came back from Colombia, I went to live on Bowyer to remove myself from distractions (there is no power, public access, and many days me and my dog were the only ones on the island). I had the same routine every for months. Wake up, make coffee, turn on CBC Radio on my grandmothers Sony Sport AM/FM Boombox and work on editing Five Weeks in the Amazon.
Our national radio station provides unique cultural and social insight gives a (mostly) unbiased view of world news and current events. The liberty to be myself and express myself without the fear of true contempt is something that’s been given to me carte blanche. Growing up in Canada, I can speak freely.
When I published Five Weeks in the Amazon, it set a personal goal to somehow get on CBC radio. Just over a month after my book was published I was is an interviewed for the morning show, The Early Edition with Rick Cluff. If want to hear the live recording it can be found at right here.
Sean Michael Hayes pens book about journey to Amazon
Former pro skateboarder Sean Michael Hayes writes about his journey to self-discovery
By The Early Edition, CBC News Posted: Jan 14, 2015 1:30 PM PT
Tsawwassen, B.C., native Sean Michael Hayes seemed to have had it all: he was a pro skateboarder as a teenager, and by the time he was 25, he had been featured in SBC Skateboard Magazine, travelled around the world, managed other pro skaters and earned a six-figure salary while living in California.
But by the time he was 28, Hayes’ life had come crashing down. He lost his job, his marriage fell apart, and nothing he tried seemed to lift him out of a deep unhappiness.
In 2012, the now 31-year-old travelled to the Amazon in Peru to seek out a shaman who he believed would have answers for him. Last month, Hayes self-published a book, Five Weeks in the Amazon to document his journey to self-discovery.
“I thought as humans, we’re quite natural, and I figured what more natural place than the Amazon,” he told The Early Edition’s Rick Cluff.
Hayes was diagnosed with depression in his early 20s. He said he tried to treat his depression naturally, through healthy eating and an active lifestyle.
“It didn’t work. I could do all this hard work and still end up feeling devastated, and I wanted to figure out why.”
He spent five weeks in Peru with a shaman, searching for answers.
“I was able to clearly separate what I now know is mental health illness and continue to go forward in my life while managing that and not let this unknown darkness take control.”
After he returned from the Amazon, Hayes started taking medication for his depression.
He plans to continue travelling and writing. He has a one-way ticket to Thailand that departs next Saturday.
An interview for The Delta Optimist
Tsawwassen native pens book chronicling journey in Peru
The author, who grew up in Tsawwassen and graduated from South Delta Secondary, self-published the book last month after a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.
Hayes, 31, a former pro skateboarder who went on to work in the skateboarding industry, says he went on the trip looking for answers. Hayes had a six-figure salary by the time he was 25 but by 28 he had lost his job, marriage as well as himself, according to a press release.
After great successes it felt like things came falling apart, he says.
“There were a lot of things I wanted answers to and no matter what I tried in our Western society, whether it be researching, reading the books, trying to study spirituality, going to the doctors, I couldn’t really figure it out here,” he says. “I thought maybe going back to our natural way of solving these problems might be the answer and that’s why I went and sought out this shaman.”
Hayes found the shaman and says he learned all about her medicines and practices.
“All I pretty much knew was her name and area of the jungle, but in these kinds of places that was enough.”
He took ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew, and went on a natural diet.
“What I had envisioned in my mind was a lot more extreme than what it was,” he says of the ayahuasca experience.
“I was thinking I was going to go there and holy crap it was going to be this extreme thing that was going to take me to another planet.”
Hayes estimates he had about 300 bug bites within the first week in the Amazon but over the last week of the trip, due to his new diet, he’d only got bit a couple of times.
“You become in sync with nature a little bit. You’re eating the right food from the right place and you get in sync.”
He describes the diet as really simple with the main thing being the removal of all preservatives, seasonings and most meats.
Hayes went to the Amazon in November of 2012 and wrote in a travel journal each day.
“I’d write at least a page or two of what I was experiencing,” he says.
He had a launch event for his debut book at Four Winds Brewing Company in Tilbury.
Hayes, who had been living in California the last eight years, has been doing a lot of travelling lately. He’s been backpacking in Colombia and says he’s heading to Thailand this month.
Hayes says he really enjoys travelling.
“One of the things I really feel is important is just basically living a happy and fulfilled life.”
His next book is a collection of his favourite poems and short stories he’s written over the last decade. It’s expected to be released early this year.
Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and other social media @Canadianhayes.